Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

8 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



[PUBLISHED BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT.] THE KING'S DIAMOND. BY FLORENCE STACPOOLE. (COPYRIGHT.) CHAPTER X. "Never heard the name!" echoed the baronet. "Isn't he a friend of yours?" Mr. Straight was still looking at the card bearing the words, "The Rev. Ambrose Mait- land." No, I don't know the name at all." I've shown the gentleman into the drawing- room, sir," said the footman. It wouldn't be respectful to the cloth to ask him to send word what his business is," said the K.C. Perhaps if Miss Chesney will excuse me I had better see who he is." The parson can wait a minute," cried Sir Richard. "Tell the gentleman Mr. Straight will be with him directly," he said to the man, and finish your luncheon, my dear fellow, a few minutes can't matter to Mr. Maitland, who- ever he is." But as Mr. Straight had finished he rose, and promising to return as speedily as possible he followed the man from the room. I'm glad to see you don't know me, Mr. Straight!" Such was the singular address that greeted John Straight when the drawing-room door closed behind him. He started, and looked h-ard at the visitor, then he cried incredulously, Jadd Yes, Jadd, sir I am complimented by your surprise, Mr. Straight." Why—you are absolutely unrecognisable—I should never have known you!" WeH, I hope not, Mr. Straight, a make up wouldn't be of much use if one's real self was apparent, would it? But a clerical rig out is very disarming-very disarming of suspicion I find it; one passes with very little notice, except from middle-aged ladies when one sports the black wide-awake, ha! ha! Now, sir, when I got your telegram I knew it meant something serious. Of course, you could not explain in a wire, and I couldn't delay to a-sk for informa- tion. It's generally most important that ser- vants shouldn't think a 'tec is on the spot; premature knowledge on that point, Mr. Straight, has done infinite mischief in many a case. So I resolved to come in one of the most unsuspicious of characters. Now, sir, I await your instructions." Concise and to the point as ever, Jadd," said the barrister, smiling, and as usual up to the mark." Mr. Jadd bowed; he was accustomed to com- pliments, and took them calmly. You were right in thinking it is a serious business in which your help is wanted," con- tinued Mr. Straight. It looki very serious in- deed at the moment—but I am trusting to you, Mr. Jadd, to render it less so." Again the detective bowed. Then John Straight explained as briefly as he could the facts of the case as he understood them, and described his interview with Sonia Koura- patkin, the discovery of whom caused Mr. Jadd to express his delight by rubbing his hands with glee and chuckling softly. He was an undemon- strative man, with a face that usually wore as little expression as a sheet of note paper, but it ciimsoned with satisfaction as he heard that the woman, on whose track he had been so long, and who had so completely baffled him, had at length been run to earth. You have her fast, of course," he exclaimed. No, worse luck. She has slipped through our fingers again," said Straight, dolefully. The detective uttered, below his breath, an expletive of an extremely strong description. It was cer- tainly hard luck to hear this. You've wired up to headquarters about her— sent her description on?" Oh, yes, of course," and then he described Sonia's method of escape, and how she had locked him in and so got a fair start. The ludi- crous aspect of the matter appealed but little to Mr. Jadd. He was irritated that such a thing should have happened, and he couldn't under- stand it. John Straight did not explain hmv he had been deluded by the exclamation of Madnmoisello de .Tude that Dora Chesney >• as walking- outside with a gentleman, and how his attention had been so distracted in consequence that he had turned to the window and knew -nothing of the young woman's movements until he heard the door slam and found himself locked in. It was little wonder therefore that Detective Inspector Jadd should be at a loss to understand how a sharp, capable man like Mr. Straight, K.C., should have been so completely butter- fingered in this important business, and should have let this fine fish drop off the hook so easily. He felt inclined to be sulky in consequence, but the rest of the tale, as it was graphically un- folded, soon interested him. He saw there were difficulties in the case worth grappling with, and his professional interest being roused, he listened attentively to all the details which Mr. Strnight could give him. The most remarkable points in the whole business," said that gentleman in conclusion, are what Sir Richard Chesney lays so much stress upon. Tho facts that the stone should have been taken and the case left. and taken from under his head without awakening him, and that no one knew he had the diamond in his possession." So he thought," said the detective briefly. Then silence supervened, during which Mr. Jadd surveyed the carpet, and the barrister looked at him waiting to hear what the first move in the direction of discovery was to be. "Can I see Sir Richard Chesney?" Certainly." "Better fetch him in here. The clergy are mostly received in the drawing-room," remarked the detective, who was not in the habit of stand- ing on ceremony in important cases. Tell him who I am, will you, Mr. Straight; it will save time." Sir Richard was presently ushered in by his new acquaintance. It was the first time in his life that he had personally to interview a mem- ber of the detective force, and his manner was perturbed. Mr. Jadd's calm business-like air, however, scon reassured him. The officer went directly to the point after making his bow on introduction to his client. I must ask you, Sir Richard." he said, at once, to be good enough to tell me the exact Btory of how this stone came into your possession from the moment you first heard of it, please, with all that concerns it, until the moment you last saw it. Take time, sir. Think it all out clearly, and tell me everything, down to the smallest detail if you please. I'll sit down, if you'll allow me." They were all standing in a group. And if you'll do the same, Sir Richard, and take time. and forget nothing, however trivial, it will facilitate matters." To be sure—to be sure—excuse me; sit down, pray," said the baronet. "I'll tell you every- thing; there's not a great deal to tell. It all happened within the last three days, and every incident is fresh in my mind, of course." He sat down, and Mr Jadd ensconced himself in an easy chair, folded his arms on his chest, crossed his legs, leaned himself back on the cushions, and closed his eyes. I'll tell Miss Chesney that the interview may last some little time," said Straight. She will be so anxious if she is kept in suspense. I'll be back directly," and he hurried from the room. Inspector Jadd opened his eyes, and for an in- stant the notepaper expression of his face was illuminated with a peculiar gleam, and his eyes darted a quick look at Sir Richard Chesney; then he shut them again and resumed the look of placidity his features had composed themselves into as he prepared to listen to the history of the missing diamond. John Straight speedily returned. He had in- deed been earnestly besought to do so by Dora, who seemed to think that her father would be in some peril if left alono with the detective. I will go and walk outside," she said; it is easier to bear suspense out-of-doors than sitting in the house. You will tell me truly what chance the detective thinks there will be of getting back the diamond, won't y.iu ?" "I will-indeed. I will. I will come to you directly he has finished his inquiries." Then I will go towards the wood," she said with a melancholy little smile, and look at the blue hyacinths." When the K.C. returned to the drawing-room the detective darted another penetrating glance at him; and for a fraction of a moment Mr. Jadd's thin lips were compressed and stretched to an unnatural width. It was one of his methods of smiling. I only heard of this diamond," said Sir Richard, "a week ago. My friend Lord Heding- ton, who is a well-known collector, wrote to me Baying that Prince Akbar. who is an emir or chief of a tribe, wished to dispose of a. wonderful diamond. It bad belonged to the Persian Regalia, but had come into this Akbar's family during some Persian war. Lord Hedington knew this man's father formerly, they are Arabians, you know, and Lord Hedington at one time was Governor of Aden, and he had seen the diamond. It was famous all over Yemen, and went among the English in Aden by the name of the King's Diamond, a translation of its Persian name. Well, it seems that Prince Akbar's tribe has a feud on with a neighbouring ene, and he has come to Europe to -raise funds to carry it on. He oame to Lord Hedington as a friend of his father's, and his lordship sent him on to me, and sent me a. line privately •telling me tha stone WM worth lookiag L He paused, "Take time, sir, take timft," said the doeteeti. placidly, "pray don't hwry." Sir Richard had spoken rapidly, feeling to the detective as one would to a physician in charge of a critical case, that the sooner he was put in possession of all the symptoms connected with it, the sooner would his treatment begin. Well," he resumed, trying to speak deliberately, and to restrain the agitation that was hurrying on his tongue, "I made an appointment for the Prince to bring the diamond for me to see. He had explained when he wrote, that he was pressed for money, and would take less for the stone than its value if he could find a private purchaser who would undertake that it should not be cut up, nor be sold again where it cannot be traced, that was why he brought it to England, otherwise he could have sold it easily in Constantinople, but he wants to have the right to buy it back again if he comes off victorious. He will buy it back at a large advance. This, of course, makes it a good investment." He looked for corroboration to the detective, but Mr. Jadd's eyes were closed, he was lying back in the cushioned chair, with no more ex- pression on his face than a sleeping baby. So Sir ltichard continued: "He begged me not to let any one know why he was coming. Possess- ing a stone of such value, of course, exposes one to great risk, and. of course, too, if the news leaked out that such a jewel was in England, all the professional thieves in the country would be 011 its track. So I did not let a creature know the purport of his visit, I did not even ten my daughter or my nephew. I merely said he was coming on business." Mr. Jadd opened his eyes, and raised his head from the chair cushion, remarking: "And this lady who has bolted knew nothing about your having possession of the stone—Mr. Straight has told me all that—she was away at Hastings, we need not take up time going into that. Well, sir. you interviewed this Prince alone, and received the stone from him. Where did you interview him ? Every detail is important, please remember." He came dewn," said Sir Richard, speaking with careful deliberation, "by the train that arrives at Pembridge at one o'clock; the same you came in tc-day, by the way," looking at Jadd. NVwhaven express, leaves Victoria 10-55," said the detective, nodding his head. "Yes, Sir Richard, please proceed." I met him, drove him to the house, we had luncheon, not a word on the subject of the diamond was spoken until he and I were locked into the library." At the word "locked" Straight remembered Mrs. Wilkinson's graphic description of the way in which the household knew that the library door was, not merely shut, but locked. Can your conversation have been over- heard?" he exclaimed, eagerly. And he imme- diately repeated Mrs. Wilkinson's account of Higgs the butler listening to the ketch of the lock shooting with a click." Both Sir Richard and the detective shook their heads simultaneously and decidedly. You come into the library presently, Mr. Straight, you'll see there is no possibility that we could have been overheard outside. We did not converse in the library, but in a little den at the other end of it, where I keep my private papers and such things. It's thirty feet from the door, and shut off from the room by a baize door. It was in there we talked—and Orientals have soft voices. The Prince couldn't be over- heard, even if he had been near the lock with the ketch; as they call it, and I'd answer for Higgs Lo any amount-why. he has been over twenty years in my service." "Besidfs," spiel Mr. Jadd, drily, "he would scarcely have tattled about the matter in the village if lie had been listening at the door with the object of committing a felony." John Straight relapsed into silence, embracing his knee with both hands and staring gloomily at the tip of his varnished walking shoe. When I saw the diamond," continued Sir Richard, I knew that its value must be immense, and I really did not feel disposed to take chaige of it even for a day or two. I said so at once to Prince Akbar, but when he showed me the extraordinary mechanism of the little case in which he kept it, and suggested that I should let. no one know anything about its being in the house, I thought it would be safe enough. My object in letting the Prince bring the stone to me was, I must tell you, a commercial one. The Duke of Margam asked me some time ago to let him know of any exceptionally fine dia- monds I might hear of. He is collecting t-hem to make a necklace for his eldest daughter when she comes of age, and he wants it to be the finest in the Kingdom." Straight looked up suddenly, an expression of alarm had sprung into his eyes. He was on the point of exclaiming In fact, you took the stone to sell it on commission?" but he pulled himself Tip in time. Sir Richard would probably have resented the question put in this abrupt fashion in the presence of the detective, and he would also no doubt have been alarmed by the con- sternation which Straight knew would have been in his voice if he had spoken at the moment, for he did in truth feel a considerable accession of uneasiness on the baronet's account on hearing his statement. If he took the stone to sell on commission, there was no doubt whatever but that he would be liable for its value. In spite of the intricacy of the law on the subject of bail- ments," this fact was incontestable. It would be time enough, however, to go into this if the diamond's whereabouts could not be discovered. This was a question of law not police, and could wait until Jadd had had his turn at the wickets. So the King's Counsel subsided into his easy sluiir again, his startled movement unnoticed by the others. I thought," Sir Richard went on, that his Grace would probably be glad of the opportunity of obtaining a unique stone like this King's Dia- mond. As to the question of selling it again, that would, of course, be a matter for his future consideration. In order to have an impartial idea of its value, the Prince suggested that it should be valued by two diamond merchants— one chosen by me, and one by him. I thought the idea a good and fair one." It was," said Jadd, as Sir Richard had paused and looked at him inquiringly. .0 I was sorry, however, that he had not sug- gested it when he wrote to me in the first in- stance, because it caused an unexpected delay, and obliged me to keep the stone longer than I. need have done. We arranged that the men were to be wired for and asked to come next dty. hut one .of them, Van Sluys, could not come until to-day. They were both to have arrived this morning, but of course I had to wire up to stop them—" The recollection of all the trouble that was probably in store for him over the unlucky transaction suddenly overwhelmed poor Sir Richard, hie voice faltered, and he got up and paced the room struggling for com- posure. Take time, sir, take time," remarked the detective encouragingly; "don't lose heart, I've sifted worse cases than this to the bottom." Well, I can't conceive a worse case, Mr. Jadd. I mean a more mysterious one," said Sir Richard sitting down again. The case was left when the diamond was taken," said Jadd. Can I see the case ?" If Certainly," and Sir Richard immediately produced it from an inner pocket. It was a small dark leather-covered box, square, and with no visible opening, or means of being opened. The baronet placed it in the detective's hands, and Mr. Jadd held it on his outstretched palm, Ic-oking at it appraisingly, while John Straight came forward and looked at it with interest. "Can you guess how it's opened?" asked Sir Richard. If W plI, no. I can't say that I can," replied the detective inspector slowly; "not without some guessing anyway." Not if you guessed for a week, I imagine," said Sir Richard with decision. Why, Mr. Jadd, that case was made in Arabia years ago. No one in England knows the secret of opening it—no one in all Europe, I should say, except Prince Akbar and myself. The mechanism, I must say, is infernally clever. It was the invention of an Arab rascal, who had more brains than honesty, I believe. Prince Akbar's father purchased the case from him shortly before he was transported to the Andaman Islands, so the secret is likely to re- main intact; but, of course, I'll impart it to you and Mr. Straight." He took the box with the air of a conjuror about to exhibit a feat of sleight of hand, pressed his fore finger and thumb upon op- posite corners with a strong pressure, and the sides and top rose, showing a dusky velvet bed, across which lay a curved aluminum bar—the clamp which had held the lost diamond in its place. Sir Richard groaned as he looked at the empty casket, and shook his head des- pairingly. "See," he said, "the clamp can only be turned by a special knack; see, it is simple when you know how it's done, but impossible to do if you don't know the trick." The detective took the case and examined it closely. Infernally clever, isn't it ?" said Sir Richard; you can see there is Eastern subtlety in the in- vention of it, eh ?" I know now, sir, how the diamond came into your possession," said Jadd, handing back the case without remark. Please to let me know next how it went out of it—every detail of your movements from the moment you last saw it in the case until you missed it this morning. Be as exact as possible, if you please, and think no- thing too trivial to mention." I last saw the diamond in this case when I went up to bed last night. I looked at it, wish- ing I could show it to my daughter; then I shut the case and put it under my pillow. TàiuBern- ing I took the case, wtueti was exaefcto wbare I left it under theI ifpii i*-&e diamond wsa gone — -1 John Straight looked anxiously at the detec- i tive; he, too, felt as if a doctor had just been < told the symptoms of a desperate case, and they t were waiting his diagnosis. Mr. Jadd had risen, and was pacing the floor, his hands deep in his pockets, his eyes on the ground. His face was puckered into a multitude of little wrinkles, its blank neutrality had vanished. Now, Sir Richard," he said, presently, "think carefully, if you please, I am going to ask an important question." Sir Richard and Straight looked eagerly to- I wards him. Did you on any occasion open the case and look at the stone when you were standing near any window or door from which you could have been seen by anyone?" "Never," said Sir Richard, emphatically. "I was most careful on that very point. I looked at the stone, but three or four times altogether, and each time I locked the door of the room be- fore I opened the case, and I did not go close to any window from which I could by the slightest possibility have been overlooked." And your valet-when you changed your coats-there's no possibility that you could have left the case even for a short time in one coat when you put on another ?" Not the slightest. Higgs—that's the butler —acts as valet to me—that is as far as personal attendance on myself is concerned, but I require very little of it. He leaves out my things, comes :11<1 shaves me when I ring for him, and so forth, but I never have him round when I'm dressing or undressing, and as to leaving the diamond case in one coat when I changed to another, that, Mr. Jadd, would have been quite im- possible. The care of the thing was on my mind from the moment it cam? into my possession. I may safely say I never lost consciousness of the possession of it for an instant—except when I was asleep and then it was under my head, and I believe most of the time my hand was under the pillow close tc it." Again there was silence, and the detective tramped the carpet ruminantly. Did you get into bed directly after you put the case under the pillow?" "No, not directly; I put it under the bolster when I went to my room, after that I undressed and washed?" In the same room ?" Well, practically in the same room, it was in the bath room, which is off the bed-room. The door is near the head of the bed; it was open all the time—and the bedroom door was shut." And locked-you sleep with your door locked, I believe ?" I do. I lock it just before I step into bed." Then it was not locked while you were in the bath-room ?'" No—that is to say, the key was not turned, but the door was shut." Ah—" Mr. Jadd was breathing a little quicker than before. "Will you allow me to see your room ?" Certainly." I've just come from town to see Mr. Straight on legal business, followed him here from his lodgings. Would like to wash dust off—that'll be excuse enough for taking me up- stairs if flunkeys are about," said Jadd, rapidly. They won't be about-not upstairs at this hour," said Sir Richard, smiling a little. He led the nay up, the detective carrying his clerical hat and followed by the K.C. Mt. Jadd stood on the threshold of the bed- room and looked round. Just as I thought," ho muttered. What-what did you think?" asked the baronet, hastily. Jadd, without answering, pointed to the bed, and the others followed the direction of his finger, but could not see the significance that attached to the object indicated, which was an ordinary rather old-fashioned mahogany bed- stead, hung with plum-coloured damask. The detective's next move was to take hold of the door, and swing it. It moved noiselessly. He turned the handle, it also was noiseless in its action. I thought as much." He was feeling in his pocket, and drew out a match-box—struck a light, and examined the hinges and lock care- fully. Yes," he remarked, meditatively draw- ing his finger along one hinge, "oiled, heavily oiled, more than a competent servant would apply. Now, Sir Richard, may I ask, sir, why did you put the stone under your pillow ?" "Why," repeated Sir Richard in surprise at the question, "for safety's sake, to be sure." But why under your pillow. Why not in your safe. You have a safe, of course?" Yes; it's in the study. If fire broke out 1 might not be able to get to it. I've been in the habit for years of putting any small thing of special value that I happen to have about me under my head at night." "Oh, it's a regular habit of yours then?" Yes. I always do it." Jadd was wiping the oil from his finger with his handkerchief. Do you have your man up when you're undressing p" No." Does anyone come up when you're going to bed—any servant for orders, for instance?" No, never." Any visitor—friend, secretary, so on, drop in for a chat-finish a cigar on the way to their room. Stop for a gossip—eh ?" Oh, there's Smith-" Sir Richard looked at Straight. "You know Smith, Mr. Straight?" Straight winced, then he nodded. "When he is stopping at the farm he often drops in for a rubber, and an argument—he loves an argument on art, does Smith—and once in a way he has followed me up here and kept at it till I've gone to sleep." And who is Mr. Smith ?" "A critic; an uncommonly clever fellow." In the house now ?" "Oh, no; he's in London-not been down for an age. Then's he's the only one who has ever come np to your room at night?" Yes. the only one, except my nephew. When he is staying here he sometimes comes in and smokes a cigarette in the lounging chair there on his way to his room." Is he staying here now?" Yes, but he wasn't here last night. He was dining with the Artillery mess at Horsham, spent the nig-ht there indeed, and only got back at breakfast time." Jadd had shut the door while he made his inquiries. Straight was leaning against the mantelpiece, his hands in his pockets. Sir Richard was fidgeting about uneasily, he re- cognised the necessity for it, but he disliked being cross-questioned, especially in the free and easy manner adopted by Mr. Jadd. "You asked me what I thought just now," re- marked the detective presently, I'll show you." He crossed the room to the head of the bed. The next instant he had disappeared. He had in fact tested the voluminousness of the plum coloured curtains hanging at the head of the bed by slipping behind them. At that moment the door opened, the next instant the detective step- ping from out of the folds of the curtain came face to face with a man who, just entering, started back at the unlooked for apparition. (To be continued.)